Runway: Chapter 11
The rest of my week was uneventful. I had a shoot on Friday for an ad for Absolut vodka. They’d been a client for the past two years and offered a very lucrative contract.
Saturday night I went to a dinner party at Felicia and Clancy’s. There were three single women there—all quite beautiful—models I’d never met before. I could have easily collected some phone numbers. I probably could have gotten laid had I put a little effort into it, but I wasn’t terribly interested.
All week, I couldn’t get Sookie off my mind, of course, and decided to give myself a break in that department. I figured I might need some time to work through that. I’d never met anyone like Sookie, and certainly never had such an unusual start to a relationship with a woman. I don’t know that I’d ever fallen so hard so fast before. And I’d had the rug pulled from underneath me pretty fast as well.
Sunday morning I got a call from Bobby Burnham, my realtor in L.A. A house in Lafayette Square was coming onto the market and it sounded exactly like what I wanted. Built in 1915, it was huge—over 5000 square feet. Seven bedrooms, five baths, and it needed lots of work, which was great for me. That usually meant it hadn’t been redone badly, and it still retained its original charm. It would be listed at a million nine and the open house was on Saturday. If I flew in early, he could get me in to see it on Friday.
I hung up and booked myself a ticket for Thursday. Then I called Pam.
“Sorry about last week,” I started.
“That’s okay. Did you get your period?”
“Funny. I’m coming to L.A. on Thursday.”
“Oh good. What’s up? Do you have a job?”
“No, there’s a house in Lafayette Square.”
“Great. When can we see it?”
“Okay. I have a show Friday night, but otherwise, so far I’m free. Oh wait, I’m supposed to have lunch with Sookie on Friday.”
“That’s fine. We can see the house after lunch.”
“You want to join us?”
“No. Thanks, though.”
“I promise I’ll stay out of it. I won’t push you two in the closet and lock the door or anything.”
“It’s okay. You were right. She is great. She’s very special. She’s just not interested in me, that’s all. It’s not a crime.”
Pam was quiet for a second. “Are you okay?”
“Sure. I’m fine. I’ll see you on Thursday. I’ll be there in time for dinner.”
“Okay. Safe flight, brother.”
By the end of the day Monday, I had moved my money around so that a big chunk of it was sitting in my checking account in case I wanted to make an offer on the house. Bobby emailed me some pictures of the house and it looked like a beauty.
I made plans to have lunch on Friday with Maxwell Lee so I wouldn’t be tempted to tag along with Pam and see Sookie. After lunch, Pam met me and Bobby Burnham in Lafayette Square and we got a good look at the house.
Pam and I were standing in the back yard when she said, “I think I need to talk to you about something.”
“You don’t like it?” I loved the house, but her opinion mattered to me.
“No, it’s not about the house. I love the house. No one would be happier than I would be if you bought it. Seriously. I love it.”
“What is it then?”
“It’s about Sookie.”
I braced myself. “I thought you said you were going to drop that.”
“I know. But I think you should know this.”
“What is it?”
“It’s about that guy she’s seeing. She told me something…something in confidence.”
“Then don’t tell me.”
“Eric, if you like her…I think you should do something about it. But you need to do something before tomorrow.”
“Well, that sounds rather ominous.”
“Well, things might change tomorrow.” She took a deep breath, clearly torn about not betraying a confidence and yet she wanted me to know something. “Her boyfriend’s a dickhead.’
“Well, that’s her choice if she wants to date a dickhead. She’s an adult.”
“He’s buying the runway division of Merlotte’s, and she’s upset about it.”
That got my attention. “What do you mean?”
“She wanted to buy it herself, and she told dickhead about it. He told her she couldn’t qualify for a loan and then made an offer himself to Sam behind her back.”
“You’re right. He is a dickhead.”
Bobby stepped out into the yard and interrupted us, and we continued the tour of the house with no further discussion of Sookie.
I was sitting in the dark theater pretending to watch the fashion show, but I was really watching the back of Sookie’s head. I was several rows behind her, already seated when she took her usual seat in the first row. Since learning about her situation with her boyfriend buying the agency, I’d made the decision to try and help her buy it instead.
It irked me no end that she might lose out on her dream because her own boyfriend, of all people, was buying the agency out from under her. I wasn’t sure if she’d let me help her or even if she’d let me talk to her about it, but I wanted to try.
After the show, I watched her walk to the backstage door and I waited for the house to empty out. I hopped up onto the runway and sat to wait for her. I kept watching the backstage door, but she didn’t show. Just as I was starting to worry that I’d somehow missed her, she came through the side door of the theater. She looked stunning, of course, and I felt a physical response to seeing her, but I set that aside. I wanted to offer my help with the purchase of the agency and had no intentions of getting into what had happened between us personally.
After a fairly brief discussion, I followed her back to her apartment in Hollywood and she showed me the figures she’d drawn up regarding the purchase of the agency. Sam’s asking price seemed very reasonable to me, and I knew how hard Sookie worked and what a good booker she was from Pam’s reports.
I told Sookie I’d be happy to be her partner, or if she’d rather, she could buy me out as soon as she got a loan. I’d leave that up to her.
I watched her on the phone with Sam discussing our offer, and tried not to dwell on how beautiful she was or how being in the room with her tugged at my heart. It was still fairly bruised from her handling of it in New York.
I got up and went to use her bathroom and when I came back out and sat down again, she was hanging up the phone, and came to sit beside me on the sofa.
“We’re meeting Sam on Sunday morning at 10 if that’s okay.” She was smiling, seemingly pleased with her conversation with Sam.
“That’s fine. My flight’s at 12:30.”
Her smile faded. “Oh, I didn’t realize you were leaving on Sunday.”
“Yeah, I am. I thought we needed to see Sam by tomorrow.”
“No, he’s got three days to respond to Quinn’s offer. If Sunday doesn’t work for you, I can call him back.”
“No, Sunday’s fine. I’m confused though. What happens tomorrow.?” I was certain that Pam said something about my needing to see Sookie before Saturday.
“Oh, I…um…I’m going to Santa Barbara with Quinn. Or I was, anyway. Now I’m not sure what to do.”
“You’re not sure because of the offer he made on the agency?”
“Yeah.” She looked a little worried. “And some other stuff.”
“Okay. Well, that’s really not my business.”
Sookie chewed on her bottom lip, still looking worried.
“Sookie, we need to talk about what happened in New York.” I braced myself for an awkward conversation, but thought we needed to get everything out in the open if we were going into business together, even briefly.
Sookie put her hands over her face and shook her head a little. She whispered, “That was a mistake.”
“Which part? The part when we slept together or the part when you took off without saying anything?”
“All of it.” I could see her bottom lip quivering, but her hands were still covering her eyes.
“Okay. We can just put it behind us then. Just forget about it.”
She nodded and I could tell she’d started to cry. I peeled a hand from her face and held it. She dropped the other one to her lap and looked down. I watched a tear fall onto the back of her hand.
“Please don’t cry. It’s okay.”
“No it’s not, Eric.” She looked up into my eyes, hers wet with tears. “I can’t imagine what you must think of me.” She let go of my hand and wiped her cheek as a tear fell.
“What I must think of you?”
“For sleeping with you. I’m not like that. I don’t know what happened to me.”
“What I must think of you? Sookie, I think I’m in love with you.”
I really hadn’t expected those particular words to come out of my mouth, but I realized as I said them that I did mean them.
“You do?” She looked fairly shocked. So was I.
“Yes.” I laughed a little. “I know, I know. It’s stupid. You’re with somebody else.”
“Dickhead. Quinn. You’re with him, and I didn’t know it. Why didn’t you tell me you had a boyfriend?”
“I didn’t have one. I didn’t go out with him until after I got back from New York. I mean, I’d dated him before, but that was awhile ago.”
It took me a second to process that information. “Do you love him? Is it serious?” I was starting to hope that I had a chance with her after all.
“No, I don’t, and no, it’s…um…we were supposed to you know…get serious—seal the deal– in Santa Barbara.”
“When you say ‘get serious,’ do you mean…I don’t know, get engaged? Date exclusively? What does ‘get serious’ mean? Seal the deal? What does that mean exactly? And you can say it’s none of my business if you want to.”
“Well, it isn’t any of your business, but we were going to….you know…sleep together.” She looked down and her voice got tiny. “Only now I don’t want to.”
“Tell me why you don’t want to.” My heart was pounding in my chest. I wanted her to be mine.
She looked into my eyes. “Because I want to be with you.”
I leaned down and kissed her. Those were the words I’d wanted to hear. I didn’t even realize how much I wanted it until she said it and I felt all the pain of her leaving me in New York just melt away.
She wrapped her arms around me and I held her close and we just pressed our lips together, and I thought, finally, this feels right. This is right.